A while ago, a friend of mine sent me a link to an article published on a website called “21 Reasons to Become a Vegetarian.” It was oddly posted on an adopt-an-animal website; I tracked down the origin of the article to a doctor named Vernon Coleman, who wrote a vegetarian book “Food For Thought,” as well as other books on politics and, apparently, cricket. He is also an outspoken opponent of vaccinations (hooray, polio!) and “conventional cancer treatment.” Yeah.
My friend, by the way, was a vegetarian and on her way to becoming a full-blown vegan.
Below is the article, with each bullet point from the original article in black answered by my annotation in red. Before you read, you should know that I think vegetarianism is perfectly healthy if done right and not an intrinsic bad. I do take issue with vegetarians trying to convert me, a top-of-the-food-chain steak eater, to vegetarianism. It’s like a Mormon trying to convert dead Jews: a lost cause. Give it up, people. And enjoy the skewering (ha!) of the article below. It starts with a couple of concessions:
1. Avoiding meat is one of the best and simplest ways to cut down your fat consumption. Modern farm animals are deliberately fattened up to increase profits. Eating fatty meat increases your chances of having a heart attack or developing cancer.
Granted. Another really good way to cut down on fat consumption is to put down the Chee-tos, which has nothing to do with meat. Meat may be fattier than a lentil, but it doesn’t automatically make your diet unhealthy. Eating McDonald’s every day makes your diet unhealthy. Eating a well-cooked chicken breast makes your diet tasty.
2. Every minute of every working day, thousands of animals are killed in slaughter-houses. Pain and misery are common. In the US alone, 500,000 animals are killed for meat every hour.
Sigh. Sad but true. Hey, kosher slaughtering is humane! Pain-free! (Sorta.) But a word to the reader: Keep this #2 in mind, because it’s going to recur.
3. There are millions of cases of food poisoning recorded every year. The vast majority are caused by eating meat.
3/3 on the truth scale so far! Insofar as there are millions of cases of food poisoning every year. The vast majority are caused by meat? Wrong. Not even a slight majority are caused by meat. In fact, produce is most often the culprit.
4. Meat contains absolutely nothing – no proteins, vitamins or minerals – that the human body cannot obtain perfectly happily from a vegetarian diet.
And the BS detector ignites! There’s a good reason that vegetarians are prone to anemia. It is POSSIBLE to obtain MOST of the proteins you need from a vegetarian diet, but not a lot of people can do so easily. For example, the complex animal proteins found in some animals are very difficult to find in a vegetable. I would further stipulate that most of those vegetables that DO contain those proteins taste gross. New vegetarians have to be really careful to make sure they are mixing vegetables and other foods that create complete proteins; carnivores neatly solve this problem by eating something called meat.
5. African countries – where millions are starving to death – export grain to the developed world so that animals can be fattened for our dining tables.
Okay, really? THIS is a rationale for vegetarianism? Some African countries also export blood diamonds, engage in female genital mutilation, take rich people on elephant hunts, massacre hundreds of thousands of innocent people because the British artificially placed their tribe socioeconomically higher on the status ladder, and had the World Cup last summer. If you want to take a moral stand, find a more legitimate plank.
6. ‘Meat’ can include the tail, head, feet, rectum and spinal cord of an animal.
Uh, ew. Key word: “can.” As in, most meat doesn’t, shouldn’t, and won’t. McDonald’s meat does not count. I’m talking about regular old healthy dinner-table meat that you cook yourself.
7. A sausage can contain ground up intestines. How can anyone be sure that the intestines are empty when they are ground up? Do you really want to eat the content of a pig’s intestines?
This is about as vague as you can get. Cream of Wheat can kill you – because a caretaker once poured hot cereal into someone’s mouth, burning him severely enough to kill him (although, that was on Fox News, so who knows if it’s true). I won’t really belabor this point because I think sausage is gross anyway, but this point sounds eerily similar to point #6.
8. If we eat the plants we grow instead of feeding them to animals, the world’s food shortage will disappear virtually overnight. Remember that 100 acres of land will produce enough beef for 20 people but enough wheat to feed 240 people.
I love hypotheticals. If we ate only the plants we grew, we’d have to create entire milling industries around processing those plants, shipping them across the world, etc. etc. Then we’d just have a global anemia problem, because we’d ship billions of tons of grain to places where they can’t hunt the grocery store for protein-completing fillers. Guess what those people will complete their diets with?
9. Every day, tens of millions of one-day-old male chicks are killed because they will not be able to lay eggs. There are no rules about how this mass slaughter takes place. Some are crushed or suffocated to death. Many are used for fertiliser or fed to other animals.
Hmm. Good poin—waiiiiit a second, didn’t you JUST say this in #2?!
10. Animals who die for your dinner table die alone, in terror, in sadness and in pain. The killing is merciless and inhumane.
I am 99% certain this was used before… wait… yep! Point number 2: “Pain and misery are common.” Point number 9: Every day, tens of millions of one-day-old male chicks are killed. Sniff. Thanks for beating a dead horse (HAHA! Get it!?)
11. It’s must easier to become (and stay) slim if you are a vegetarian. (By ‘slim’, I do not mean ‘abnormally slender’ or ‘underweight’ but rather, an absense of excess weight!)
First of all, it’s “absence,” even in the UK. But the real problem isn’t eating meat – it’s eating an overabundance of everything. This “thinness” argument is a favored one of vegetarians, but countries that DON’T have an obesity epidemic, startlingly, are not all vegetarians. In fact, most of the world’s vegetarians are in America and England, two countries not exactly known for the quality of their food. Vegetarianism is practically unknown in France and Italy, yet they have two of the healthiest populations in the world. Maybe because they don’t eat huge fast food portions? Maybe meat has nothing to do with it? Have you SEEN the size of the drink cups at movie theaters?
12. Half the rainforests in the world have been destroyed to clear ground to graze cattle to make beefburgers. The burning of the forests contributes 20% of all green-house gases. Roughtly 1,000 species a year become extinct because of the destruction of the rainforests. Approximately 60 million people a year die of starvation. All those lives could be saved because those people could eat grain used to fatten cattle and other farm animals – if Americans ate 10% less meat.
Sigh. “All those lives could be saved if….” I KNOW. You JUST said that. -5 points for repetition.
13. The world’s fresh water shortage is being made worse by animal farming. And meat producers are the biggest polluters of water. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. If the US meat industry wasn’t supported by the taxpayer paying a large proportion of its water costs, then hamburger meat would cost $35 a pound.
Again, this is the quantity argument. If Americans didn’t consume insane AMOUNTS of food in general and meat specifically, this wouldn’t be the staggering number it appears to be. And if you want to talk about the federal government subsidies, let’s talk about corn for god’s sake.
14. If you eat meat, you are consuming hormones that were fed to the animals. No one knows what effect those hormones will have on your health. In some parts of the world, as many as one on four hamburgers contain growth hormones that were originally given to cattle.
AHHHHHH. THIS SHIT DRIVES ME ABSOLUTELY BAT-SHIT CRAZY. The amount of hormones you will get if you eat an ENTIRE HERD OF CATTLE is negligible. Do you know why? No, the author doesn’t know why, because she’s relying on half-baked vegetarian talking points like Sarah Palin. HORMONES ARE METABOLIZED. Which, in simple terms, means that IT CEASES TO EXIST BY THE TIME THE COW IS SLAUGHTERED. It’d be like saying “you know, you really shouldn’t eat that tomato, because what you’re really eating is the Miracle-Gro it was potted with.” Do you hear how insane that sounds? That’s the hormone argument.
This argument is so wrong it needs a second paragraph. Let’s play a game. Let’s say you’re a hormone – hCG, a growth hormone, for example. You’re at home in blood, which has a slightly alkaline pH level, and is generally a great place for you to chill. IF, hypothetically, you SOMEHOW manage to stay in existence through the slaughtering process, the freezing, the packing, the shipping, the cooking, and all the other shit meat goes through before a human eats it, where do you go? That’s right. The stomach. The STOMACH. What’s in the stomach? STOMACH ACID. Yes, acid. The kind of shit that BURNS THROUGH METAL in Alien. You, Ms. hCG, CANNOT SURVIVE IN AN ACIDIC ENVIRONMENT. It’d be like a person trying to survive in a bath of mustard gas.
15. The following diseases are commoner among meat eaters: anaemia, appendicitis, arthritis, breast cancer, cancer of the colon, cancer of the prostrate, constipation, diabetes, gallstones, gout, high blood pressure, indigestion, obesity, piles, strokes and varicose veins. Lifelong vegetarians visit hospital 22% less often than meat eaters and for shorter stays. Vegetarians have a 20% lower blood cholestrol level than meat eaters and this reduces heart attack and cancer risks considerably.
Anemia? No. Just no. The rest of it? Fine. I never said vegetarianism wasn’t healthier. Though I would argue that the diabetes/indigestion/obesity axis of mentioned problems also stems from just plain overeating, not eating meat. Vegetarians are more health-conscious in general, so it makes sense.
Also, it’s “cholesterol,” not cholestrol.
16. Some farmers use tranquillisers to keep animals calm. Other routinely use antibiotics to starve off infection. When you eat meat you are eating those drugs. In America, 55% of all antibiotics are fed to animals and the percentage of staphylococci infections resistant to penicillin went up from 14% in 1960 to 91% in 1988.
Oh my god. Didn’t we just go over this? See my massive rant above. Also, I think most of America would do well to have a bit of valium in their system. Finally, to attribute ALL staph resistance to eating meat is patently absurd. Did you know that in the months after my dog died, the Dow Jones fell to under 10,000 points? …Draw your own conclusions.
17. In a lifetime, the average meat eater will consumer 36 pigs, 36 sheep and 750 chickens and turkeys. Do you want that much carnage on your conscience?
In the words of Ron White, I did not climb to the top of the food chain to eat carrots. Ask a lion if he feels guilty for taking down that gazelle. And while you’re at it, consider the energy required to produce the article I’m critiquing. If you use the author’s logic, millions of people had to die during the Industrial Revolution and World War II in order for you to type one word on your computer. Do you want that much blood on your fingers?
18. Animals suffer from pain and fear just as much as you do. How would you like to spend your last hours locked in a truck, packed into a cage with hundreds of other terrified animal and then cruelly pushed into a blood soaked death chamber. Anyone who eats meat condones and supports the way animals are treated
If I repeat an argument 5 times, does that make it 5 times as worthy? Anyone who uses electricity condones and supports the eventual extinction of humankind.
19. Animals which are a year old are often far more rational – and capable of logical thought – than six week old babies. Pigs and sheep are far more intelligent than small children. Eating dead animals is barbaric.
Oh, now you’re just whining. Really. Why bother comparing year-old animals to six week babies? What’s the analogy?
20. Vegetarians are fitter than meat eaters. many of the world’s most successful athletes are vegetarian.
Yes, many. In the same sense that many people who develop pancreatic cancer survive. What this fun sentence neglects is that the mortality rate for pancreatic cancer is something crazy, like 95%. So while many people may indeed survive it, the vast vast vast majority don’t. Many of the world’s successful athletes are vegetarian. The vast, vast majority of all levels of athlete aren’t.
Wait a second. That’s only 20. Guess the author doesn’t know how to count, either. Anyway, in closing: Vegetarianism is healthy. No argument whatsoever. But I’d argue that eating a sane (and by sane I mean correctly portioned and prepared) amount of meat, combined with an otherwise healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and grains, is just as healthy if not healthier and more convenient than a vegetarian diet. Of course, if you have a political or moral objection to the way that meat is processed, that’s a totally different story. But from a health-only perspective… I’m not buying it.